1. How did you get started with haiku?
For me art and poetry have always intermingled. A lovely book with art and haiku as a present when I was 18 may have been my first introduction. When I was setting off to Japan in 1972 to stay for a year, Kaji Aso gave me a set of R. H. Blyth’s books. I also had Cid Corman’s Oku no Hosomichi with me. Every day I would choose a haiku in season and write it in Japanese, romaji, and English as Japanese practice. Another friend gave me a diary to write in. Shortly after I arrived I shed the diary with lines for a small blank wire book that I carried everywhere and sat and sketched and wrote. My first haiku were born here. In ten years I had about 30 consecutive volumes. They are still treasures and an inspiration. Since my children were born I have not been able to keep to one consecutive book at a time. From 1979 to 1999 I collaborated with my former husband, Shokan Tadashi Kondo, on haiku, translation, and renku at many related events where we came in contact with poets from all over the world. Translating Yamamoto Kenkichi’s 500 essential season words also gave me a deeper respect for season words. Ishihara Yatsuka’s advice in how to approach season words also had a great impact on me.
2. Tell us more about yourself.
I’m a mother, new grandmother, artist, poet, and teacher living by a mountain river in Kyokawa Village in Kanagawa, Japan. Check my Facebook pages, Kris Kondo and kris moon, if you are interested in more.
3. What does NaHaiWriMo mean to you?
When Michael Dylan Welch first proposed writing a haiku a day for February of 2011, I was already writing haiku daily. As serendipity would have it, the year before I had inherited a book from a friend, No Plot? No Problem! (Chronicle Books, 2004), which set out a program for writing the first draft of a novel in thirty days. The book was by Chris Baty, the person who in 1999 started National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, which Michael has explained was the inspiration for NaHaiWriMo. February is the quietest month of the year for me, and I had been involved in online poetry workshops in February since 1999, so I decided to take the NaHaiWriMo challenge in both English and my rusty French. Making many new friends in the haiku community along with meeting up again with many longtime friends is one of the things I like best about NaHaiWriMo—and being inspired by everyone’s creations. The sense of a community that welcomes newcomers in a nurturing environment is a great gift, for which we must thank Michael. Personally, I enjoy writing to prompts daily for a month once or twice a year. I am used to writing to prompts through my long career as a renku poet. I feel that the practice of writing to prompts at NaHaiWriMo serves as training wheels for any poet who becomes interested in collaborative poetry. Since I am still teaching at university and have my own practice of writing haiku and tanka daily, in combination with the photos and artwork I create on my iPad, joining in one or two months a year is all I can manage, since I do not want to simply post but also interact with everyone’s creations. NaHaiWriMo is a great place for haiku poets to hang out and enrich their lives and haiku—one of the best writer’s workshops available.
4. What one piece of advice would you offer to those who are new to writing haiku?
Besides “read, read, read / write, write, write / share, share, share,” there is always something new to learn on the haiku path, so enjoy what you are doing. Go to haiku gatherings and conferences if you can, especially Haiku North America.
5. Please share three of your favourite or best haiku.
I do not really have favorites. Rather, my favorite is the one that is being set free at moment of creation. I usually have a hard time remembering my own haiku. Here are three that I do remember.
This one was written about two years after I came to Japan and that had a very healing effect on me, related to my mother’s sudden death a few months after I arrived. One early morning I heard the loud song of a cicada and went outside to find a tiny cicada on its back.
even with its last breathing . . .
early morning mist
My grandmother used to tell me that all she had to play with when she was a child in Sweden were acorns and pebbles and that she imagined them to be whole families and their houses and furniture. That made me love acorns all the more and I played with them the same way. A smile came to my face when I saw my son collecting them, too.
bobbing . . .
in the washing machine
At a summer festival my son caught a bullfrog tadpole. They are huge and not native to Japan. When the tadpole turned into a frog I set it free. Perhaps its descendants and Bashō’s kaeru are trading stories.
temple pond . . . setting the bullfrog free